how are you plugged? a survey on digital tools

I’m doing some research on the use of electronic/digital tools for teachers, and I’m particularly interested in anecdotal experiences. If you’d like to help me out, please take a minute to answer one/some/all of the questions below, either in the comments section (preferred!) or in an email to

a) What electronic / digital / unorthodox tools are you or educators you know using already? (electronic classroom programs, online or desktop simulations, language lab software, wikis, etc …) What companies produce these tools (if you know)?
b) What kinds of digital tools are/would be useful to you in teaching your subject matter (including things that don’t exist yet)?
c) What other digital tools do you know of that are on the horizon (ie: upstart ideas, notable failures that had promise)
d) Other thoughts (including thoughts on the usefulness, generally, of electronics in the classroom…)

Thanks! I look forward to hearing about your experiences.


5 thoughts on “how are you plugged? a survey on digital tools

  1. For me, the best part about on-line learning is what you can do with discussion forums. When I put my class (which I had been teaching for 7 years) on-line, I suddenly, through the student discussion forums, gained new insights into the material. In class, when you have, say, a ten-minute class discussion, the extroverts tend to participate, and there isn’t much pressure on students to present well thought through ideas. On-line, every student might give the topic ten minutes of thought and, because they need to do the work of committing their thoughts to writing, they provide more meaningful comments. I find that breaking the students up into small groups for discussions (the technology will let you do that) works way better than having 35 people all join in a conversation.

    Some random thoughts:

    -I think podcasts are overrated, since they seem to promote straight lecturing. I have produced short (about 7 minute) presentations using software called Articulate, and they’ve received good feedback.

    -I haven’t been able to successfully implement wikis, probably because I haven’t been committed enough. Anything that requires learners to learn the technology before they can engage in the learning is going to be more difficult to implement.

    -A colleague was telling me that he uses audio to give feedback instead of writing on student papers. So students click on his comment and hear him saying “Great idea!” He finds this saves time, since he can communicate with tone of voice. He is struggling though with how to keep the files at a reasonable size.

    -I’ve played with but haven’t successfully implemented bubble/mind mapping software so that teams can brainstorm together online. Research shows that online collaborators tend to skip too quickly past the brainstorm stage. Given where the work world is going, it’s useful to help students develop on-line collaboration skills and I’d liek to play more with this tool.

    – A colleague invited me to a class meeting that he held through “Paltalk,” which had all the students in the room on-line. You could see when someone raised their hand and asked a question adn the teacher answered. This could be a good way to hold on-line office hours before a big assignment or exam.

    What are you thinking of doing? There’s so much potential, especially with the interactive media.


  2. This is very helpful, Amy, and so detailed – thanks so much.

    I’m partially doing this research on a friend’s behalf; she is brainstorming ideas for software for educators and wants to know what the needs and concerns are, but isn’t an educator herself. So it’s sort of market research, but to an excellent end: the possibility of better educational materials.

    Beyond that, I’m interested in what others are doing in this arena because my classroom is a very low-tech zone, and I often wonder if I could make productive use of more technical stuff, if only I knew what was out there.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with me.


  3. We have little in the way of technology. We are still using blackboards and chalk, and that’s all. I’ve been trying to get an overhead projector for fifteen years, to no avail, as I’m told lightbulbs in them burn out too often. Our school does now have a computer lab with enough computers for two students to share a computer at once (only enough for half a class). The computer lab is at the other end of the school. They finally have four computers available for the staff which the children are not supposed to use. Previously, we had to share the 12 lab computers with 300+ children in our school, including for typing report cards, and assignments. We have no computers in our rooms, nor is our new school building wired for connections to rooms.

    What I would like is one computer in each classroom available for the TEACHER’s use, and a wifi system, since our building isn’t wired for hardware.

    I’m back to handwriting lessons and photocopying them (very time consuming) or just giving up and only using text books and workbooks.

    Dedicated Elementary Teacher Overseas (in a new American School in the Middle East)


  4. It sounds like a difficult way to work in this wired-up world, although I remember the ditto machines and handwritten posters from my early days of teaching…sometimes I’m nostalgic for those days, although of course if I were thrust back into them, I’d find it frustrating.

    Check out my next post for info on the blogging I’m doing these days – but I promise to be back on the WordPress horse in January.

    Thanks for coming by!


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